Launching a new WordPress website can be both an exciting and exhausting process. (Spoiler Alert: We know this firsthand because we recently launched a new Keyhole Marketing website.)
If you’re like us — and nearly all of our clients — you use WordPress to create your business websites. It’s a great out-of the-box platform that includes many user-friendly plugins to do most of the work for you, without much coding experience.
If you’re considering — or close to launching — a new WordPress website, consider using this comprehensive checklist to streamline the process from beginning to end.
While the urge to launch your new WordPress website as quickly as possible can be tempting, there are a few critical items you must cross off your checklist before going live. Let’s start at the very beginning:
Once you’ve secured a domain name, the next step is to set up web hosting, which will allow your website to be visible and easily accessible to the world wide web. Web hosting enhances the speed and responsiveness of your site. We use AcceleratedWP for web hosting, but we’d also recommend checking out Bluehost, HostGator and SiteGround before making your final decision. Answer these questions when shopping for a web hosting platform:
Whether your choose to purchase a WordPress theme or hire a website designer/developer to code your new website, you’ll want to ensure that the design includes SEO features. Look for these:
Categories are like a table of contents that sort your blog content in order to create a more friendly user experience and avoid duplicate content. It also boosts your SEO value by making your content searchable. Examples of categories could be recipes, travel, email marketing, etc.
Every piece of content on your site should be tagged with more specific descriptors of your content. There are no limits on the amount of tags you can include on each blog post. However, the purpose of your tags is to relate your blog posts together – like the index of a book. Tags are popular keywords that make it easy for readers on your site to search for content they are specifically interested in reading.
Use permalinks to edit your URL’s to include keywords, instead of a random string of letters and numbers. This will increase your search rankings using keywords, enhance Google’s crawlability on your site and create simpler links. We recommend using your blog post name as the permalink, leave out “&”, “?” and “!” characters, and use hyphens instead of underscores.
Permalink example: https://www.keyholemarketing.us/creating-content-writing-brand-photography
We strongly recommend downloading the Yoast SEO plugin, in order to add meta titles and descriptions. This is an incredibly easy way to boost and test the SEO quality of your website content. Meta titles and descriptions are proven to increase traffic and engagement to your website, by providing additional information and teasers to search engines.
Each time you add a new image to your site, be sure to include an image alt tag. Categorizing your images allows them to do extra SEO work for you on search engines. You can do this without installing a plugin by naming your image file with a keyword phrase and brand name. Then, edit your image within WordPress with a keyword-filled description.
In order to avoid getting your content stolen and then dealing with duplicate content, use the rel=canonical tag on all of your web pages. This tag tells Google and other search engines where the original source URL for that content comes from. You can use the Yoast SEO plugin to set this up.
Once you have your foundation set-up and the majority of your website build, follow this testing checklist before going live:
Every single piece of your website needs to be checked for visual appearance, readability, functionality and content. While this may be the most tedious part of the process, it’s also the most important. You don’t want someone to have a negative experience with your site because of something that could have been easily been prevented.
Pro Tip: While testing pages, give yourself a break occasionally. Walk away from the computer screen, go outside, and get your mind off the website for a short period of time. Then, come back and approach your next round of checks as a visitor, instead of someone who’s been staring at it for days, weeks, or even months.
We’re willing to bet that your site has methods for visitors to sign up for a newsletter, make a purchase, download a PDF, and much more. You need to test every single one of them to make sure there aren’t any glitches or points of confusion for the user.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget about the success or thank you pages (i.e. after making a purchase, or signing up for a newsletter) and ensure that those redirects look and work the way they’re supposed to.
If you’ve programmed blog posts to be shared automatically on social media, you need to publish a test post to ensure it works correctly. Similarly, if you have any social feeds on your site, you need to make sure they are accurately pulling from your real time social feeds.
Over 50 percent of all search traffic comes from mobile devices these days. From a user-experience perspective, you should know how your site looks and works on mobile devices, and you should strive to make your site mobile-friendly. Use your own device to test this functionality, and work through all of the pages and processes as you would on a desktop. Google also offers a Mobile-Friendly Test Tool — a free and quick way to analyze your site.
Check to see that you’re using the most recent version of WordPress, as well as any plugins or themes you’re using on your site. This will ensure that all of the tools you’re using will remain compatible with WordPress. You can automate these updates with a WordPress plug-in that does it all for you.
It is essential to track your website statistics—especially right after launch—in order to grow your traffic. Two numbers you should be tracking from the beginning are visitors and referral sources. We recommend signing up for Google Analytics to track these numbers and much more. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to set up Google Analytics for your site.
Add a branded favicon — the icon associated with your URL and displayed in a browser’s address bar or next to the site name in a bookmark list. Here is a good site for generating your favicon. It’s a simple task, which results in something users experience every time they’re on your site.
After you’ve tested every single page on your site, you’ve got one more sneaky feature to check on: 404 pages. Visitors land on these pages when they type in a page name incorrectly or are redirected to a “Page Not Found” error message. It’s good practice to improve the user’s experience with these by doing the following:
Building and maintaining a new WordPress website will get easier with time. We can’t stress enough how important it is to learn the basics, start with a strong foundation, then continue studying up on useful plug-ins.